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Colorado Communities Vote To Build Their Own Broadband Networks

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (CBS4) – Residents in numerous Colorado communities voted in favor of taking internet service into their own hands in this week’s elections.

The votes were cast in 19 different communities, including Boulder County, Greeley and Silverthorne.

Mountain towns and other rural communities could wind up being the ones that benefit most from the vote, and small businesses there should get a big boost.

(credit: CBS)

“In this day and age, it’s not just like ‘I would like to have high speed service.’ We really do need it,” said James Lee, co-founder of the company Elevate.

Voters in places like Silverthorne, where Lee works, feel they’ve been ignored by big internet providers. And they say the difficulty of getting broadband in parts of the high country has negatively affected business.

Due to the connectivity challenges, Lee and others say they’re not on a level playing field with entrepreneurs who work in places like Denver.

“We can get the speeds here, but the cost is through the roof,” Lee said.

A city owned broadband utility is not a novel concept, but the vote to make it a possible reality is being applauded by people like Lee.

“I think one of the things that we’re seeing is as a service it’s similar to a water department. It’s just going to be another department that’s fees-based … towns do this all the time — and broadband is a service,” he said.

There are approximately 100 communities that have now opted out of Senate Bill 152. That bill passed in 2005 and restricted local governments from using taxpayer dollars to build their own broadband networks.

“There are a lot of people that complain about those big box services, and I think if the town can come in now and solve some of their problems up front as they’re building this, it’s going to be a better solution. They have incentive to make it work better,” Lee said.

As many communities move forward with plans to start their own broadband connections, businesses like Elevate are hopeful it will mean better internet service at a better price.

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